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Two Can Keep a Secret: A Librarian’s Perspective

Just to update you on the score:

Karen McManus: 2

Full night of sleep: 0

Two can keep a secret…if one of them is too tired to function the next day. Once again, I’ve stayed up into the wee hours trying to solve a Karen McManus mystery. Unlike with her first book though, I failed utterly to solve the mystery before the author wanted me to solve it. Am I losing my touch? Do I need to grab my sisters, make a cool fort in front of the TV, and have a Scooby-Doo marathon? The answer to that of course is, YES.

AUTHOR: Karen McManus
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Delacorte
PUBLICATION DATE: January 8, 2019
ISBN: 9781524714727
PAGES: 336
SOURCE: public library OverDrive
GENRE: mystery, thriller
SETTING: small town in Vermont, present-day
GIVE IT TO: Grades 8+


When their mother is forced into drug rehab, twins Ellery and Ezra travel from California to Vermont to live with their estranged grandmother. The town of Echo Ridge seems perfect, but it has a dark past. Years ago, Ellery and Ezra’s 17-year old aunt disappeared without a trace. Five years ago, another teen girl was found murdered in the local horror theme park. Now, someone is threatening to repeat the murders…on Homecoming Night.


Love love love this book! The mystery kept me on my toes throughout, and though I had tons of theories along the way, I did not figure out the mystery until the very end. Crisp writing, authentic characters, and a nail-biting mystery are sure to keep readers glued to the pages, right up to that very last, very chilling line.


Everything! I was sucked into this book from the first chapter. McManus’s pacing is excellent, and the set-up for three different mysteries is strong. Be prepared to remember a lot of characters and to possibly have trouble keeping everyone straight for a short time. Keep reading and just try to guess!

That last line. The best last line I’ve read since Numbers by Rachel Ward.

I liked Ellery’s “detective” mind. She asks great questions and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Loved her!

We also got to know the parents’ teenage history. For example, the high school hotshot in the 80s is now the town drunk. The party girl grew up to be a washed-up, drug-addicted actress, and a shy, pimply-faced teen grew up to be a police officer next door.

Did anyone else picture Robby’s mom from Cobra Kai as Sadie? If Two Can Keep a Secret ever becomes a movie, this actress is perfect for Sadie! Check it out:

If you’ve read One of Us Is Lying, know that Two Can Keep a Secret is NOT a sequel. It is a completely different story with completely different characters. But there is a sequel coming…One of Us Is Next is scheduled to release in early-January 2020. Maybe I’ll have better luck solving that one!


I really loved Two Can Keep a Secret, so I don’t have much to say here. My only criticism is my usual annoyance with super-unique YA names for nearly every character. In this one, we have Ezra, Ellery, Katrin, Declan, Malcolm, Daisy, and Sadie. It’s not the worst YA offender for crazy names (that honor goes to the Field Party series by Abbi Glines), but it’s getting there. And I say that as a die-hard Southerner very familiar with southern belle Texas names. In all my years of teaching and librarian-ing in Texas, I never once had any students by any of these names. Even the few outliers with odd names were still outliers. Most of the students in any one school were still Emmas and Caitlins and Michaels and Matthews.

Okay, one more criticism, another pet peeve of mine I see sometimes in YA. The Echo Ridge public librarian falls asleep at the counter. She’s completely out cold and only wakes up, all yawns and stretches and glasses askew, when those meddling kids leave the library. Why do I keep seeing these stereotyped pictures of librarians in YA novels? I don’t get it. I would think authors spend lots of time in public libraries and talking to librarians. Have they ever seen a public librarian sleeping at the counter? Or any library employee doing anything other than being busy and professional? Come on, now.


Themes: drug addiction and rehabilitation, moving to a new town, high school cliques, homecoming queens, murder, false accusations, small towns

Would adults like this book? Absolutely! It’s well-plotted and unpredictable. I loved One of Us Is Lying, but I liked this one even better!

Would I buy this for my high school library? Yes! I bought two copies for my library this spring, and I never once shelved them. They were either on-hold or checked out before I even had time for shelving.

Would I buy this for my middle school library? This is a tough call. I personally would buy this for a middle school library, but it is really one that is better for eighth grade than sixth. There’s profanity, talk of lost virginity, a character in drug rehab, and some creepy public threats against three teen girls. But despite that, I think a reluctant reader eighth grader would have a really hard time resisting Two Can Keep a Secret.


Language: medium–includes f*ck, sh*t, damn, and others. It wasn’t more than anything I see in modern teen movies, and I honestly barely noticed it because I was so thoroughly sucked into the story.

Sexuality: mild–one or two kisses, story about losing virginity a long time ago; spoiler alert–>highlight to see–>statutory rape (not described at all)

Violence: mild–It’s a murder mystery, but there is no blood or guts or graphic violence. One character gets beaten up at school.

Drugs/Alcohol: mild-medium–drug addiction, drug rehab, one teen gets drunk at a party, one character is described as the “town drunk”



Read my review for One of Us Is Lying


Middle school librarians: Do you have Two Can Keep a Secret in your libraries? How are your students liking it? What concerns do you have?

(WARNING: If you spoil the mystery, bad things will happen. Your comment won’t be approved, and I will keep you here till 4.) Behave yourselves and keep it spoiler-free!



  • I am a middle school librarian, and we can not keep Karen McManus’ books on the shelves. Our students love them as much as I do. You hit the nail on the head with your comments. I don’t book talk these books with 6th graders, and do let them know about the language issues if they pick it up. However, they usually shrug and do not care as long as the story is good. I can not wait for her third book in January!

    • No doubt! She does such a great job weaving a mystery that readers just can’t put down. Tiffany Jackson is another newer YA author that I’d say is the same way.

      • I LOVE Tiffany Jackson! Reading Monday’s Not Coming and cannot put it down. Is anyone including her in your MS collection?

      • I had her in my 6-12 school–very popular!!! I didn’t booktalk her books with Grade 6, but I didn’t stop them from checking the books out, either.

  • I agree with you on unusual names in YA lit. However, I did have a Declan in my Alabama school this year. 🙂

    • LOL–That’s awesome! I think it may be an Irish name?


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